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Ormond Beach Observer Thursday, May 26, 2022 2 months ago

School districts take added precautions in wake of Texas shooting

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Volusia, Flagler ramped up security for the end of the school year.
by: Brent Woronoff Associate Editor

This story has been updated.

Volusia and Flagler school district officials reassured parents, students and staff about their schools' security in wake of the Tuesday, May 24 shooting that left 19 children and two adults dead at an elementary school in Uvalde, Texas.

"Our hearts are with the families and friends of the innocent victims, Robb Elementary School, and the Uvalde community," stated a message posted May 25 on Volusia County Schools' Twitter feed. "The top priority of VCS is to provide students, faculty, and staff with safe campuses where they can work, learn, and reach their highest potential."

"It's just unimaginable that this has happened again," said Flagler County School Board member Colleen Conklin, who helped organize a candlelight vigil May 28 at Veterans Park in Flagler Beach to honor the victims of the Texas and Buffalo, New York, shootings.

Flagler School Board Chair Trevor Tucker said it's understandable that parents are concerned in light of the tragedies.

"Any time one of these tragedies happen, parents are always concerned about the safety of their children."

TREVOR TUCKER, Flagler County School Board chair

"Any time one of these tragedies happen, parents are always concerned about the safety of their children," Tucker said.

VCS spokesperson Nancy Gonzalez said the district has a total of 105 school resource officers, school resource deputies and school guardians based throughout the district. 

"After (the May 24) tragic events, we communicated with our local law enforcement partners and requested extra patrols and extra presence on campuses for the remainder of the school year (to June 3)," Gonzalez wrote in an email.

With more visitors on campuses for end-of-the-year celebrations, Flagler had already scheduled more officers at the schools. 

"Flagler Schools takes the safety and well-being of our students, faculty, and staff very seriously," Superintendent Cathy Mittelstadt said in a message to parents, students and staff on May 25. "We value our continuing partnership with the Flagler County Sheriff's Office as they provide School Resource Deputies for each of our school campuses. You will notice additional law enforcement presence as we end the school year."

Flagler County's final day of school was May 27.

After the Parkland shooting in 2018, the state legislature passed the Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School Public Safety Act which required school safety officers at all public schools and provided additional funding to school districts.

Florida Rep. Tom Leek, whose district includes Ormond Beach, told the Observer that Florida is ahead of other states in setting school safety standards.

"All of the legislation you see that other states are looking at and that the federal government is looking at, Florida has already done."

REP. TOM LEEK

"All of the legislation you see that other states are looking at and that the federal government is looking at, Florida has already done," Leek said.

But he added that that doesn't mean Florida can't do more.

Conklin said a Flagler School Board executive session is scheduled for June 1 to provide the board with an overview of district safety protocols and discuss any possible revisions or updates.

"It's that time of year when we would look into plans and protocols and hardening our facilities," she said.

She said she would like to see the district do an audit of current protocols. 

Other provisions of the 2018 Florida law included new requirements for mental health services and training and launching the FortfyFl app to report suspicious activity.

"Florida has done a pretty good job requiring more secure schools and has provided the funding to do so," Tucker said. "It's a lot harder now to gain access to schools."

Gonzalez said since the Parkland shooting, Volusia County Schools has hired a director of security operations, created a security operations department and a school guardian program, implemented a single-point of entry at every school, added a crisis alert system for employees, added fencing and surveillance cameras, created mental health teams and created a Student Hero Award program to privately recognize students who come forward to report weapons on campus, threatening behaviors or suspicious activity.

"We have learned so much from every tragedy beyond our school district borders," Mittelstadt said in her May 25 message. "But we know we cannot do this alone. If you see or know of something... say something. Utilize the FortifyFL app to report any suspicious activity or concerns."

Jarleene Almenas and Brian McMillan contributed to this story.

 

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